Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods
June 2, 2016
Lawrence Public Library
Kirk McClure, LAN Vice Chair, Old West Lawrence Association; Cindy Suenram, East Lawrence Neighborhood Association, LAN Treasurer; Steve Braswell, Pinckney Neighborhood Association; Ted Boyle, North Lawrence Improvement Association; Bill Winkler, Barker Neighborhood Association; Robert Lewis, West Hills; Steve Evans, University Place Neighborhood Association; Melinda Henderson, Brook Creek; Gary Webber, Sunset Hills; Bonnie Uffman, Barker Neighborhood; Becky Pepper, Lawrence Planning and Development Services; Larry McElwain, The Chamber; Nancy Thellman, Douglas County Commission; Nikki Wentling, Lawrence Journal World
Kirk chaired the meeting in Candy’s absence.
May minutes were approved (Boyle/McClure)
Treasurer’s report (Cindy): Current balance $2162.74
Nancy Thellman, Douglas County Commissioner, gave an update on current and upcoming issues. The county jail and creation of a Community Mental Health Crisis Center are high on the County Commission planning list. The current jail facility was built in 1997 and the capacity was designed to be adequate for 15 to 20 years. The design capacity is 186 inmates and safe operation calls for 80% of maximum operation. Now there are often 240 inmates which requires many to be sent to other jail facilities. This adds to operational costs plus the moved inmates do not get access to services such as job training and re-entry preparation for release.
Also operating above maximum design capacity does not allow for segregation of inmates which creates a dangerous mix. Many inmates are convicted of crimes but many are just waiting for trial. Commissioner Thellman said jail expansion advocates would like to see an additional 120 beds at the jail. Adding this additional capacity plus a classification unit is estimated to cost $25 to $30 million.
Commissioner Thellman said they are also looking for alternatives to incarceration for some individuals. By legal statute, the county is charged with providing mental health services to the community. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee is working to get on top of this issue. Some of the members of this committee include the Douglas County Sheriff, Lawrence Chief of Police, Lawrence City manager, The Douglas County Administrator, and mental health care providers. Commissioner Thellman said she thinks Douglas County Sheriff McGovern has a very progressive view of law enforcement and advocates expanding jail pre-release services.
A service the committee would like to develop is a Community Mental Health Crisis Center. This facility would provide outpatient mental health services as well as 2 to 3 week inpatient mental health services. It is estimated that 25% of individuals in jail have a history of mental illness with approximately 17% having serious problems. This Crisis Center is estimated to cost $10 million. It is expected to be located near the Sandra Shaw Community Health Park. The jail and crisis center facilities would be designed to serve for the next 20 years.
Commissioner Thellman said she would like to see the jail expansion and crisis center go to public vote next year and then built as soon as possible.
A question was asked about State budget cuts and how they would affect road and bridge maintenance in Douglas County. She said she thinks budget cuts in Topeka may slow down new road construction projects but would not hamper road and bridge maintenance. A budget for maintenance already exists.
Becky provided an update from Planning and Development Services.
Kirk stepped down from chairing the meeting and Cindy took on this duty. Kirk presented a letter he asked LAN to present to the City Commission that recommends economic development planning be brought into City Hall and not be provided by the Chamber of Commerce. Kirk said the advantages of this change would be to create a more professional economic development planning staff. Economic planning could be accomplished more economically by adding professional City Staff. Also this arrangement would improve transparency and accountability.
There was some discussion. Larry McElwain from the Chamber said he thinks the current process is transparent and accountable. He said there was a need at times for discussions not to be part of the public record since this could harm a competitive edge in business planning by letting other communities know of our plans. Kirk said there are laws that allow for confidentiality when necessary. Steve said even if there are not major problems with the current arrangement it does not appear to be the optimal process. Melinda said she would like more information. Ted said he would prefer to keep the current arrangement.
It was moved (McClure/Lewis) and passed that LAN would authorize Candy and Kirk to sign and submit a letter to the Lawrence City Commission recommending the City terminate the economic development contract with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and hire two professional local economic development planners who would report to the City manager.
Steve Evans briefly gave an update on the proposed Lawrence Transit and KU on Wheels Multimodal Transfer Facility. He said neighbors are still concerned about the increased bus traffic off of 18th and 19th Streets.
Next LAN meeting will be July 7 at the Lawrence Public Library
REPS: If you can’t attend a meeting, please send an alternate representative so Neighborhood Associations are heard.
June 21, 2016